Alumnus Wins 'Top Shelf Award' for Book Cover Design

Jackson Finds Freedom in Owning Design Firm

By Megan Perkins ’18
Thursday, January 28, 2016

Graphic designer Greg Jackson ’94 was recently awarded the 2015 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) “Top Shelf Award” for his exceptional book cover design for “Simply Tuesday” by Emily Freeman.

For approximately 12 years, Jackson has specialized in cover-to-cover book design, predominately for publishing companies needing book layout and promotional design work at his creative design studio, Thinkpen Design. Over the years, Jackson estimates that he has designed upwards of 400 book covers. In addition to book cover design, Thinkpen also provides brand development services including logo, style guide, and packaging design.

“Both areas of focus in my business share similar goals—to make the product or company distinctly stand out from the crowd, to appeal to a target demographic, to communicate a message, and to be memorable,” Jackson said.

The competitive “Top Shelf Award” is a prestigious honor for Jackson as the ECPA selects a book cover artist each year based on the design’s fit with the market, level of conceptual thinking, and quality of execution. Aside from the personal gratification and affirmation of his hard work and artistic talent, the ECPA award means recognition within the industry that will hopefully attract new clients. “At the end of the day, the real award is always the next job or the next client,” said Jackson. “Winning the trust of the people I work with day in and day out is where the real value of my business lies.”

Jackson is enjoying the freedom that comes with owning his own company, a long-held dream of his after working in the corporate world for years. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in art and design from JBU, Jackson spent eight years working as a graphic designer, digital illustrator, and concept designer for popular greeting card company, DaySpring.

Jackson established Thinkpen in 2003 with the philosophy that “with all of the benefits a computer can offer, there is no tool like a pen and paper to begin turning the gears in the mind to think, explore, solve and express.” Making the transition from the corporate world to self-employment required Jackson to place an extraordinary amount of faith in prayer and God’s timing, as well as determination through hard work and planning.

“It has been a journey for sure, moving from a ‘secure job’ paradigm to one of wearing all hats in the business and actively trusting the Lord for the next project and then the next after that with no more visibility into upcoming work beyond one to three weeks,” said Jackson.

Jackson credits the foundational business concepts he was taught while pursing a minor in business administration at JBU for his business’s success. “My business communications class gave me tools and concepts that are daily part of my work,” he said.

Jackson likens his creative work process to that of a gardener — gathering, incubating, and harvesting. He first collects as much information as possible about the client’s needs, competitors, similar products and trends within the company’s target demographic. Next, he processes the data he has gathered, searching for unique connections between ideas and visual elements. Finally, the project is assembled “with harmony of design elements but also cohesion between items within a product line or branding campaign.”

By creating Thinkpen, Jackson has been allowed the freedom to live out his passion for design and fulfill his God-given purpose. “I truly feel blessed to put my hands to something I enjoy doing and something I believe the Lord has equipped me to do,” says Jackson.

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